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Jobseeker: 10 years of work trials, still no permanent job offers

Hanna Harri has been caught in a cycle of short work trial stints with no permanent job offers to show for it. Officials at the Ministry of Employment and the Economy believe that new regulations introduced this year will put a stop to employers using the trials to take advantage of jobseekers.

Image: Yle Uutisgrafiikka

Hanna Harri is living proof that labour market measures such as on-the-job work trials don’t always work for job seekers. The Tampere-based 36-year-old silversmith by training has been bounced from one job trial to another for the past 10 years without receiving any offers of permanent work.

"My entire job history has consisted of work trials. There have been a few positions for which I received some kind of pay, but not even those have led to anything permanent," she said.

Harri’s stints have lasted from one to three months, and some cases, they have been extended by a couple of months, but she has also spent long periods of time unemployed.

Wage subsidies don’t always work

In a bid to find permanent full-time work, Harri has also participated in wage subsidy programmes, in which employers are incentivised to hire workers with wage support from the state. In 2014, she took up such a position working in a garden centre after a stint at a local tax office for a month. But even that did not bear fruit.

"This unemployment situation is doing my head in, and I’ll do anything," she told her employment counselor.

While Harri has been unlucky in her job search, others have struck gold. Thirty-three year-old Espoo accountant Mirja Hätälä managed to find work after two work trials. However she didn’t take up the offer, because she saw an opening for a work trial in the accounting office of the employment office, which she eventually landed.

Tens of thousands in work trials

Roughly 40,000 jobseekers opt to take up work trials every year. The number has remained more or less constant over the years. According to the Ministry for Employment and the Economy, the programme has been temporarily extended to 2017 and 2018. The trials are now known as recruitment pilots and usually last one month at most. This approach is just one of a series of changes introduced this year.

"The recruitment pilot offers unemployed jobseekers the opportunity to demonstrate their skills and to adapt to a potential workplace and thus lower the threshold for an employer to hire them," explained ministerial counsellor Tiina Korhonen.

Korhonen said that there are many options available to the long-term unemployed. She noted that they can develop their skills by training and participating in wage subsidy schemes.

Poverty awaits some pensioners

Following her last failed attempt at finding permanent paying work, Harri is no longer eligible for an earnings-related daily allowance, since she has used up all of her allotted time. She now believes she will get a labour market support placement.

"You do get that famous work experience from it after all. The problem is that you don’t accumulate an earnings-based pension, so for people like me our pensions will be ridiculously small," she lamented.

Harri’s experiences with work trials have left her feeling that she is an expendable resource, although she would like to be a long-term and productive member of the working community.

"Goodbye, you were nice, but we don’t have anything for you. The next one is coming soon,” she summed up her experiences. “I’ve learned the hard way what empty promises mean," she added.

The disappointed jobseeker said that she believes that poverty will increase in Finland. She notes that a large group of seniors will be forced to eke out an existence on a small pension, since they haven’t been able to accumulate a pension from work trials. Harri said that she had worked hard at all of her placements.

"Unemployment is hardly anyone’s fault. Work trials should not be strung together. Employers could hold off on using work trials and I know many that have done so," Harri noted.

Employment officials: Tighter rules to prevent abuse of system

Officials at the Uusimaa employment office say that cases have come to their attention in which an employer has exploited the work trial programme by rotating new participants through it. However they said that they have intervened in such cases.

For her part, ministry counsellor Tiina Korhonen said that legislation governing work trials has been to impose a maximum duration to prevent employers from abusing the system. Current data show that 40 percent of participants remain unemployed three months after the end of their trials.

According to Korhonen officials aim to prevent abuse of the system with tighter regulation. She noted that unemployed jobseekers will not be recommended for the system if it would distort competition.

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